THE THING A collection of short stories by Kristine Argyle, Denis Langan and Geraldine Langan.
With thanks to Pippa Hennessy and Worksop Library
Inspired by Wendy Ramshaw: Rooms of Dreams, a Harley Gallery touring exhibition in partnership with Ruthin Craft Centre.
Contents 3 6 9
The Harley Gallery by Kristine Argyle The Return of Excalibur by Denis Langan The Pavan by Geraldine Langan
THE HARLEY GALLERY by Kristine Argyle
He climbed the balcony and silently entered the bedroom – he paused as he saw the moon‟s reflection catch the jewelled perfume bottles on the dressing table. The bottles were clustered together like glittering minarets – each bottle containing exotic perfumes – the fragrances escaping to tease his senses. He caught his breath as he remembered the teeming streets of his childhood bursting with the pungent fragrances of cloves, bergamot oil and orchids His thoughts drifted back to the hubbub of those Bombay streets – the market traders noisily plying their wares as the battered cars and brightly painted buses veered at break neck speed through the throng. The delicious aromas from the pavement cafes made his always empty stomach lurch with hunger. He remembered a cacophony of noise – the pandemonium of human life lived in the raw. A child of the streets, he spent his days scavenging among the bins outside the cafes or earning a few rupees by picking the pockets of the wealthy businessmen dining al fresco with their wives swathed in jewels and furs. He would gaze in awe as limousines as big as houses with their glossy, gleaming occupants swept by and he vowed that one day, he too would glide through the crowded streets in chauffeur driven splendour And yet – what chance for a street child – an orphan with brothers and sisters to care for? His destiny was fixed – a daily fight for life and, as the years drifted by, his childhood dreams became all but submerged by the grinding hopelessness of his existence. A sudden noise made him stop – he hardly dared breathe as he heard footsteps coming towards the bedroom. He glanced at the window through which he had made his entrance, after climbing the palace walls unnoticed. The bedroom door opened and a young woman entered. Tall and beautiful with lustrous, long black hair, she wore an evening dress of shimmering silver and around her neck ……… He had seen it in one of the glossy magazines carelessly dropped by a pavement diner. The fabulous necklace that had once belonged to the wife of the Sultan of Dapoor. It had recently been bought by an oil magnate for his beautiful young wife. The article said the necklace was priceless – bought for an undisclosed sum said to be over a million 4
dollars. And it was at that moment that he made his vow – he would steal the necklace – taking it whatever the cost. In a single second his destiny changed forever. His heart pounded as he moved across the bedroom towards her – she was sitting at the dressing table carefully selecting a perfume bottle. He edged silently; closer and closer, watching her liberally apply the perfume to her temples and wrists. He felt the sweat trickle down his brow as he reached forward to put his hand over her mouth. As he did so, she spun round and gasped in surprise. He hesitated – just long enough to give her time to collect her thoughts and let out a loud piercing scream. He heard the shouts of the palace guards below. “Please don‟t hurt me” she begged – her eyes wide with terror. As she moved, he became aware of her perfume as it hung in the air – strong and sweet – the exotic smell heavy with the pungent fragrance of cloves, bergamot oil and orchids. For a second, he was overcome – lost in the memory of the little boy whose whole life was given up to a daily struggle – a fight for existence – and his heart ached with sadness for the child whose desperation and despair he could never escape. And as he hesitated lost in thought, he heard the bedroom door open and he turned around to see the guards enter the room – guns raised and pointing straight at him ….. THE END
THE RETURN OF EXCALIBUR by Denis Langan
Arthur sat in the dungeon of his own castle, head in hands and totally exhausted. His wounds were still seeping blood despite the administrations of his doctors. For five years he had fought to keep his kingdom free from tyranny and injustice, a losing battle in current times. The entire country was in turmoil, the long borders open to raids from its neighbours. If he only had the courage, strength and support to raise a loyal band of followers, he would be able to defeat the rebels and drive them from his kingdom. His army had been overwhelmed by a much larger force. The rebels had been helped by traitors at his own court, committing treason for personal gain. They had guided the rebels through the hills to surround Arthur‟s men. A massacre had followed, Arthur and his knights captured. The traitors had themselves been executed when they were of no more use to the rebels – a lesson to all in the value of chivalry and loyalty ***** Arthur‟s great ambition to unit his people depended on finding the mighty Excalibur, the fabled sword held by monarchs for centuries. The sword gave its owners the power to attract followers and lead them to save the nation. His father had been able to assemble the Knights of the Round Table, the sword being the catalyst. Excalibur had been stolen from the castle soon after his father‟s death. Most of the Knights of the Round Table whom Arthur had inherited on becoming king were now languishing in prisons scattered all over the kingdom. As the months passed Arthur was aware he was losing strength and hope. He was unable to escape without assistance. However, his wounds were healing and he was constantly searching for ideas to escape. ***** One night, just after the guard had changed, he heard a commotion outside in the corridors. There were cries and clashing of weapons. The fight was short-lived, followed by silence broken only by the groans from a wounded sentry. The cell door burst open, in came Sir Lancelot and his squire David, with Harley Davidson – David and Harley had succeeded in freeing 7
Lancelot from a nearby castle. The intrepid four fled the castle through secret tunnels known only to Arthur. Riding through the night to give some distance from their captors, Arthur was already planning to free the remainder of his loyal knights and regain his kingdom. His optimism plummeted with the realisation that without Excalibur the task would be impossible. He voiced his doubts to his colleagues, who smiled in unison. „What is it?‟ Arthur asked. Harley Davidson stepped forward proudly. From beneath his cloak he produced an oilskin, wrapped in which was Excalibur. Arthur was ecstatic. „Where did you find it?‟ Harley explained they had taken it from the castle where Lancelot had been imprisoned. Arthur could now free his kingdom and his people with the recovery of Excalibur, or, as it is known in Anglo-Saxon, „Item 24‟. THE END
THE PAVAN by Geraldine Langan
'These are beautiful, darling.` Diane thanked her husband and gazed wonderingly at the dainty objects nestling against the plush velvet, cosy in a wooden casket. Carefully lifting each one to hold up to the light, she was aware of a slight, tingling sensation running through her fingers. Each one was made of gold metal, decorated with silver circles. Diane ran her finger around the lower edge of the silver pattern, finding the circle concealed a tiny opening. Each ornament had a different number of circles and, where these ended, each was adorned with a small pink crystal, except for the smallest which had six crystals of variable shapes and sizes. 'If only objects could talk' she remarked 'I wonder what tales these could tell?' As she spoke, the colours of the crystals deepened. Diane became aware she was floating on water. After what seemed like forever, she felt the water receding around her and allowed herself to stand. It was dawn. A large heron soared towards the rising sun, screeching loudly. Wonderingly, Diane's eyes tracked his progress, until her gaze was arrested by the sight of five large, glistening silhouettes on the horizon. A distance away, a tall muscular man rose from the watery depths. As the darkness yielded to the light, he flexed his muscles and strode menacingly towards the horizon. Diane experienced a chilling sensation like icy fingers gripping her. Where was she...? What was she doing here...? As she watched, the newly created man reached the skyline. Hardly daring to breathe, she saw his arms reach out to what now appeared to be tall figures and heard him say, 'Welcome my friends, I am so glad you came'. As if in slow motion, they all glided towards her. Like he'd know she was waiting there all along, the man gently caught her arm. 'Welcome' he said 'I am so glad you are here with me'. Arm in arm, they followed 10
behind the figures. Their close proximity gave Diane opportunity to examine them more closely. She became conscious of a slight humming noise and an odour of hot metal. 'Chess pieces,' she said quietly to herself, 'they remind me of chess pieces.' She noted their smooth golden bodies, encircled by what appeared to be silver rings. Closer inspection revealed these were a raised ridge of lighter metal above an open space. Maybe the noise she'd heard was machinery? Perhaps the rings served to disguise a sophisticated cooling system? Not daring to think of anything else, she focused on the silver rings, being reminded of military stripes. Thinking back to the chess piece analogy, she pondered if they were indeed part of a hierarchy which had different functions? Perhaps the more air vents, the more complex the machinery, making one figure more powerful, hence the greater number of stripes. She observed each had a slightly different pinnacle, perhaps this had something to do with sound or frequency? So absorbed was she in her thoughts, she'd failed to notice they'd walked a long distance across the sand, and had now stopped beside a radiant, golden triangle. Diane felt herself being drawn through a small rectangular door which closed silently behind her, leaving no trace of where the door had been. 'What's happening?' She finally allowed herself to speak. 'Welcome, your Majesty.' The smallest of the figures spoke to her in a high pitched voice. 'We are the Pavan, summoned by your husband, the God Amun, as we have the power to create an amazing race for this land. We will start with you, your Majesty. Our name means 'the breeze' and that is all you will feel as we impart to you all the knowledge of the Universe which is stored in the crystals embedded in our being.' Diane felt the warmth of the sun as she soared high in the air, just as the heron had done in the early morning, before the long walk... before the rectangular door in the golden triangle... Effortlessly, she floated, floated, floated...! 11
As she came to rest, her gaze fell on the dressing table, seeing the five golden figures her husband had brought from the auction yesterday. Was it her imagination, or were the crystals on the smallest figure that bit brighter than the rest? She gazed lovingly at the tall, muscular figure sleeping beside her... and then noticed the sand on the carpet...! THE END
Images Page 1.
Wendy Ramshaw, Necklace for Catherine de Mediciâ€&#x;s Bedroom, photo George Gammer
Wendy Ramshaw, Towers, photo Graham Pym
Wendy Ramshaw, Necklace for The Piano Players Wife, photo George Gammer
Wendy Ramshaw, Pavan, photo George Gammer